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A pressing concern in the minds of the final year students of IIT Bombay is the clash between the academic and placement timelines.  The conflict lies between the Day 1 of placements, scheduled on the 1st of December and the last day of the end semester exams, which is the 4th of December as per the academic calendar. Professor Sudarshan, DD AIA, informed Insight that the institute may push for the conclusion of exams by the 30th of November. Even so, the schedule would remain rather tight and would offer no respite to the students. To better understand the logistics behind this clash, we contacted Professor Viren Menezes, the Professor in Charge of Placements for IIT Bombay.

Here, Professor Menezes explains the reasons behind the schedule clash while suggesting solutions to resolve the issue:

Q1: Why did the pan-IIT council decide to keep Day 1 of placement interviews on December 1 despite the uncertainty regarding COVID and delayed academic timelines of all IITs?

A1:
a) Dec-1 has been the first day of placements for ages. The academic calendars were/are not ready at most of the IITs, and hence any clash with the date (1st Dec) was not foreseen.
b) Even companies have their calendars as we have. On their calendars, the month of December is reserved for IITs. In January, they generally visit other Institutes/NITs/colleges for placements, and in February, they visit IIMs and Management Institutes. They have to wind up recruitments by the end of the fiscal year (15th March). 

Hence, Dec-1 was not altered, and the placement cells across the country ended up communicating this date to the companies.

Q2: What are the solutions that the PT Cell and the academic section are looking into to resolve this clash of timelines?

A2:  There are essential pre-interview processes that are scheduled in the week just prior to the interviews, which take a minimum of 5 days. In consideration of the academic calendar, the PT Cell has reduced the number of days (for pre-interview processes) from 7 to 5, and thus, have requested to resolve the clash from 25th November onwards for placement activities. If the end-sem exams continue beyond 25-Nov-2020, the interviews may have to be postponed from December 1 (which may not be an advantageous move, if other IITs start on 1st Dec.). Our Director is trying to convene a meeting of All-IIT-Directors to discuss the clash of timelines. They may consider pushing the beginning of placements to mid-December 2020 if all the IITs agree. If the placement timeline is postponed (collectively, by all IITs) to mid-December, the academic and placement calendars will be clash-free, which is the best scenario. 

Other options, if admissible and approved by the Institute, can include the following:

a) Winding up end-semester examinations by 25th November, at least for final year students (involving elective courses, which generally have small class-strength). Exams of other batches (not participating in placements) can continue as required.
b) Conducting end-sem exams after the placements, say from 20-12-2020 if the students who are not appearing for placements (other batches) consent to this option.

Q3: Other IITs are also facing the same issue. What are some of the solutions being proposed by them to address this?

A3: Most of the IITs are not aware of the clash of academic and placement timelines so far as their academic calendars are not fully developed (unlike ours). Only 3 IITs have detected this clash. The placement calendar was decided by the AIPC independently. Hence, the clash was not felt so far. 

Some IITs may consider conducting the end-sem exam after the first phase of placements if Dec-1 is adhered to.

Students’ Concerns: 

Insight talked to the final year students to understand the issues they would face due to this clash in the academic and placement calendar. We have mentioned the major concerns highlighted by them:- 

  1. Placement preparation – It is unreasonable to argue that students can prepare for end semester exams and placement interviews simultaneously.  Further, sleep schedules are disturbed during the end semester exams, which wouldn’t be great if students have to give interviews the very next day. 
  2. Academic concerns – Due to the unreliability of the proctoring methods for quizzes and mid-semester examinations, many instructors have kept up to 80% weightage to the end semester examination. Any compromise in the end-semester examination may severely affect the grades for this semester. Students will also need to make travel arrangements to the examination centre if the institute goes ahead with the plan of remotely proctored exams. This arrangement may create a further hindrance for students simultaneously sitting for placement and end-sem exams. 
  3. Pre-interview processes – Pre-interview processes form a critical part of the evaluation of candidates. Overlapping of the schedule of these procedures and the end-sem exams means that the students would not be able to perform up to their potential in either. 
  4. Poor impression on companies – While our institute has a high repute amongst prospective recruiters, this reputation needs to be maintained. If placement procedures are delayed by a week or so, then most companies would have already hired candidates from other IITs. A disregard for companies’ concern could affect their willingness to hire from our campus in the coming years.
  5. CAT – An additional concern highlighted by students is the schedule of CAT (29th of November), the entrance exams for many prestigious management institutes in India, notably the IIMs. Having the end sem exams on the same day as CAT may force students to miss one of the exams.

Concluding Note

If all the IITs agree to a change in the placement timeline then that would be the best way forward. However, suppose the placement timeline of other IITs remains the same. In that case, the solution which allows for an early conclusion of the end semester exams solely for the final year students is the next best option. Further, it does not affect the other batches much. The other solution, which involves shifting the end semester examinations to mid-December, may lead to a disturbance in the schedule of other batches and may affect their plans to do projects and internships in that period. At the same time, the second solution assumes that placements get over in December. As many students sit for further phases of placement, they may have issues with the end semester examination being postponed.

Placements are not just a few interviews spread over a month, but the culmination of the efforts put in by students in various activities during their stay in the institute, such as academics, research, extracurriculars and positions of responsibility, to name a few. While it seems intuitive to focus on academics, with IITB being an educational institute, we need to realise that for most, the final goal of college is to secure a good job. 

Insight appreciates the efforts being taken to resolve this clash of timelines and we hope that the institute can reach a solution that serves the best interests of the students.

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